Mothers' letters

Once in a very long while, POWs were allowed to send a message to their family. Some of their messages did reach home after many months, sometimes a year. Marine Corporal Donald Versaw wrote this message from a POW camp in the Philippines on May 6, 1944 using a printed form provided by the Imperial Japanese Army. The last sentence was censored and Don cannot recall today what he wrote there.



Don before becoming a POW

It was received by his parents in Nebraska 8 months later on January 28, 1945. Donís mother wrote her son back on the same day using a printed form provided by the War Department. (It seems that by then Don's parents had been informed that he was now in Japan.)



This letter was never received by Don. In fact, he never received any mail from home although his mother wrote to him almost every week.


Then came the joyful news of Japanís surrender. Donís mother wrote this letter on August 16, 1945.


Mrs. Versaw did not live long after the war to enjoy her life with her son. She passed away in 1948. Don believes that the four years of worrying about her son had taken its toll on her.

Army Pfc. Robert Brownís mother wrote this letter on her sonís 19th birthday.   


It was never delivered to Bob, who by then was interned in the Mukden POW camp in China.

 Bob in the Mukden POW camp
wearing his POW #190   

On February 10, 1944, Bob's mother received this telegram from the War Department.   


Many parents learned from Japanese propaganda broadcasts that their son was a POW of the Japanese. 

In April of 1945, Bob had an appendectomy. At that time, Bob was working for a Japanese Army doctor, Juro Oki, at the Mukden POW camp. Dr. Oki allowed Bob to send a 10-word telegram to his family in the United States. On May 31, 1945, Bob received the very first word from home in three and a half years acknowledging the receipt of his telegram.


When the war was over, Bob discovered in the office of Japanese prison guards many letters his mother had sent to him. After 60 years, he still keeps those letters which he was not allowed to read while a POW. His mother wrote in one letter:

My dear Bobbie,


I am thinking of you all the time, my dear, and only wish I could help you some way. My heart and thoughts are all with youÖ Keep up your courage and carry on so this war will get over with and we can all be together again.


With oodles of love and kisses for my own little boy.
                                                                                        Always, Mother   

How much would it have meant to Bob if he could have read these words while being a POW?

Bob carried this photo of his mother
all through the years as a POW

We should also remember that mothers of over 11,000 POWs (nearly 40% of American soldiers captured by Japan) could not see their sons come home alive. They too must have written many many letters to their sons.